Underdogs Italy stunned Scotland with a dominant 28-4 victory at Kingston Park in their opening World Cup fixture in Group B.
Winger Jake Maizen scored a hat-trick on his Italy debut, having bombed a chance in the first half. He was joined on the scoresheet by team-mates Dean Parata and Luke Polselli, while captain Nathan Brown impressed just two weeks after he featured in the NRL Grand Final for Parramatta Eels.
Scotland failed to play any fluent rugby in attack and looked nervous throughout the fixture in Newcastle, with their only try coming from Lachlan Walmsley in the dying stages of the match.
Nathan Graham named an experienced Scotland side that included Salford’s Ryan Brierley at full-back. Euan Aitken and Kane Linnett featured in the back-row, with St Helens’ James Bell at loose forward.
29-year-old Brenden Santi featured for Italy, having won promotion to the Championship with club Keighley. Barrow’s Anton Iaria, Swinton’s Richard Lepori and London’s Parata all starting.
Italy opened the scoring on nine minutes against the run of play, with full-back Luke Polselli grounding a grubber kick from Radean Robinson just before the dead-ball line for a four-pointer.
Parata extended Italy’s lead with ease on 22 minutes. The 31-year-old going himself from dummy-half to stretch out and score under the posts.
Both Italy wingers Lepori and Maizen bombed try-scoring opportunities in the first half which could have seen their side with a comfortable lead at the break.
Captain Dale Ferguson was sent to the sin-bin just before the break for a dangerous tackle.
HT: Scotland 0-12 Italy
Italy continued to pile on the pressure early in the second half and Maizen eventually got his try on his debut. The 25-year-old powering over Walmsley to score in the corner.
Maizen made it a brace on his first cap for a healthy 22-0 lead with 30 minutes left on the clock. He completed a second-half hat-trick on 77 minutes, racing away from 80 metres out to score untouched.
Halifax winger Walmsley finally scored Scotland’s first try of the tournament with just four minutes left much to the delight of the crowd.
FT: Scotland 4-28 Italy
Scotland: Brierley, Walmsley, Liu, Buchanan, Russell, Hayward, Gahan, Luckley, Hood, Bayliss-Brow, Aitken, Linnett, Bell. Bench: Hellewell, Schneider, Bain, Ferguson.
Italy: Polselli, Lepori, Natoli, Atkinson, Maizen, Campagnolo, Robinson, Moretti, Parata, Iaria, Santi, King, Brown. Bench: Tramontana, Hodge, Celerino, Colovatti.
Tries: Polselli, Parata, Maizen (3)
Goals: Campagnolo 4/5